For as long as there have been human beings, there have been gurus, or spiritual guides. This is because the true purpose of human life is to attain the highest, pure consciousness, known variously as Truth-realisation, Self-realisation or God-consciousness.
In modern times, sadly, the great majority of gurus have been false. Men and women who preach spirituality but have not attained that ripeness of experience needed to live and practice it. The very rare genuine gurus have generally lived and worked in the East.
Over the last hundred years a few authentic gurus have come to Europe. Swami Ramtirth, Vivekananda, Inayat Khan, Paramahansa Yogananda, Georges Gurdjieff, Swami Ramdas and Idries Shah are some of the names that come to mind. The highest guru to visit this continent, the Maha or Great guru of this century was Meherwan Rinpoche.
Meherwan Rinpoche (pronounced MAY-hair-WAN RIN-poh-shay) was born in Pune, India in 1894. His parents were Persian, and he grew up in the Parsi community of Pune. While studying in college he met his first spiritual Master, an elderly woman known as Hazrat Babajan. Babajan was one of a very few Sadgurus, or fully Realised Masters, alive on Earth at that time. She unveiled Meherwan, which is to say she removed the psychic or sanskaric obstacle to complete spiritual experience and understanding. This occurred when Meherwan was nineteen, and abruptly ended his college career.
It took seven years for Meherwan to integrate this highest divine consciousness with his ordinary awareness of the physical. He did this with the help and guidance of a second spiritual Master, Upasani Baba Maharaj of Sakori. Upasani, himself a disciple of Sai Baba of Shirdi, brought Meherwan back to ordinary consciousness of worldly life, while fully retaining the divine or cosmic consciousness of Self-Realisation. He also directed a few of his followers to follow Meherwan. Thus began Meherwan Rinpoche's sharing of his spiritual attainment with the men and women of world.
Meherwan also had connection with three other Masters during this period of preparation: Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon, Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur, and Sai Baba of Shirdi (the Master of Upasani). A sixth Master, Dhuniwala Dada of Khandwa, may have played a part as well.
Meherwan's given name was Meherwan Sheriar Irani. Devotees of Tibetan Buddhist background first addressed him as Meherwan Rinpoche in the 1920's. Rinpoche means "precious one" and is a name reserved for masters who, they believe, incarnate again and again to guide and uplift others. Tibetan Buddhist students of Meherwan Rinpoche were active in the Eastern School of Broad Buddhism and the mystic Order of the Golden Hand. Another set of Hindu, Parsi and Muslim devotees gave him the name Meher Baba (pronounced MAY-hair BAH-bah), which means loving father or friend.
Meherwan Rinpoche led a very active life and traveled all over the world. He alternated periods of fasting and seclusion with large gatherings of devotees and intimate meetings with spiritually advanced masts and saints. His primary work, he explained, was to prepare a circle of 122 disciples for the highest spiritual state, Truth-realisation. His secondary work was to prepare the world for a spiritual "push" that would lift human consciousness from selfishness, separateness and competition, to universal love, brotherhood, cooperation and genuine spiritual aspiration.
Meherwan first visited the British Isles in 1931, and a number of men and women from these parts became his students. Among them were Meredith and Margaret Starr, Herbert and Kitty Davy, Margaret Craske, Mabel Ryan, Delia and Minta DeLeon, Charles Purdom, Tom Sharpley, Kenneth Ross, Will and Mary Backett, Fred Marks, and Tom and Dorothy Hopkinson. Meherwan's brother Adi Sheriar Irani also came from India to live in London.
Meherwan Rinpoche's spiritual work required that he observe silence. Beginning in July 1925, Meherwan gave up speaking. He communicated using gestures and an alphabet board. This verbal silence continued until several days before his passing in January 1969.
Along with supervising schools and free dispensaries, and feeding and clothing the poor, Meherwan wrote ten books. Generally he would dictate notes to a disciple, who wrote them up, and then Meherwan would check and correct the text. The works of this sort that have been published are:
Discourses, by Meher Baba, written with C. D. Deshmukh
Sparks of the Truth from the Dissertations of Meher Baba, by C. D. Deshmukh
God Speaks, by Meher Baba, written in conjunction with Eruch Jessawala, Abdul Ghani and Ramjoo Abdulla, and edited by Ivy Duce and Don Stevens
Listen Humanity, by Meher Baba, edited by Don Stevens
Life at its Best, by Meher Baba, edited by Ivy Duce
Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama, written with C. D. Deshmukh, and edited by Ivy Duce
The Everything and the Nothing, by Meher Baba, edited by Francis Brabazon
The Nothing and the Everything, dictated to and edited by Bhau Kalchuri
A tenth book, which was written out by hand by the Master before any of the others, has yet to be released. Meherwan Rinpoche said that this book would reveal many spiritual secrets never before shared with the world at large.
Along with his teachings on selfless service to others, meditation and prayer, Meherwan Rinpoche stressed pure love as a spiritual practice. Not only love for others and love for God, but love for himself, as a personification of the divine qualities. A human being who has become one with God or Truth has lost the separative ego. There is no longer any selfishness or pride or egotism. Such a man or woman -- and they are very rare and hard to find -- can safely become the focus of one's spiritual aspiration.
Ordinary love, with its romantic, sexual and possessive attachments, can alternate between blissful raptures and agonising complications and bindings. But love for a Realised being can gradually transform a person from narrow individuality to unbounded consciousness. It can bring one to a state of infinite peace, love, knowledge, power, beauty and happiness.
Since his passing in January, 1969, a large number of people have seen Meherwan Rinpoche in dreams and visions. These experiences are not limited to those who consider themselves his followers. There are hundreds of stories of his guidance, material and spiritual help, physical, emotional and mental healings. Allowing for naive credulity, hallucinations and intentional deceptions, most of these accounts seem to me to be genuine.
If you would like to learn more about Meherwan Rinpoche, I recommend the books listed above, most of which are available at the Centre book shop, at spiritual and "new age" bookstores in Edinborough, and through online sites like Amazon.com. A very detailed multi-volume biography of Meherwan Rinpoche, "Lord Meher" by Bhau Kalchuri, is also available. While "Lord Meher" has many textual and factual errors and is shamelessly overpriced, I feel that it is well worth reading. If you can't afford it, borrow it from the Centre library or from one of the local public libraries.
Sadly, a sectarian Meher Baba Religion is being formed. For those susceptible to cult indoctrination -- in other words, me, my friends, and everyone else in the world -- it might be wiser to respect these groups from a respectable distance.
Those living in the British Isles who wish to learn more about Meherwan Rinpoche and his spiritual teachings are invited to our four annual retreats. These gatherings, which last two weeks and are free of charge, take place in March, June, September and December, at the times of the Equinoxes and Solstices. Those familiar with Welsh history know the Celtic background of these countryside gatherings. For more information, visit Meherwan Centre any weekday afternoon and ask for the Retreat Secretary.
April 1, 1999
Om Meherwan Rinpoche